Practice Report | March 22, 2014
The Wolves were once again a bit of a walking wounded club on Saturday during their practice at the LifeTime Fitness Training Center. As Minnesota prepares to face the Phoenix Suns in a 2:30 p.m. matinee on Sunday, shades of last year’s injury-plagued season came up as coach Rick Adelman sifted through a few of the guys that are currently banged up.
Center Nikola Pekovic is still considered doubtful as he recovers from his ankle injury. He was available to do some 5-on-0 work during Saturday’s practice, according to Adelman, and he was doing some conditioning on the elliptical afterwards. But Pekovic, who has missed the last three games, will likely miss at least another as he tries to get back to full strength.
Ronny Turiaf is also still out with a bruised knee, and Adelman said there hasn’t been any new developments or progress for him. And guard A.J. Price continues to recover from his appendectomy, which will likely keep him out a bit longer. He was doing a little bit of a workout today.
Then there’s guard J.J. Barea, who developed a bit of a left foot sprain during the road trip. Barea said his foot has been bothering him for about a week, but it flared up in Houston and made it difficult to run and play. He ended up playing just 15 minutes in the loss on Thursday night.
He said he underwent an MRI to make sure it wasn’t a stress fracture.
“It’s been bothering me for a week, but it’s been getting worse and worse,” Barea said. “When I woke up in Houston it was really bad, and I tried but it was bothering me the whole game. Hopefully it feels better tomorrow.”
Barea said he plans to give it a go during warm-ups and try to work the ankle out pregame. He and the training staff will make a decision from there. Right now he’s listed as probable. Adelman said Barea didn’t practice on Saturday.
Gorgui Continuing To Shine
My Twitter account had a lot of activity after I sent one out about Gorgui Dieng putting up 22 points and 21 boards in Houston, becoming the first Wolves rookie to record a 20/20 game in club history. Dieng had the same type of response—he said friends, family and Louisville folks were all reaching out to him to congratulate him on the accomplishment.
And then there was a text from his college coach, Rick Pitino.
“Coach Pitino text me this morning and asked why I didn’t grab 20 rebounds with [Louisville],” Dieng said, laughing. “I told him I give him 19 plenty of times, so I don’t know what he’s complaining about.”
All kidding aside, Dieng has done a great job for the Wolves in Pekovic’s absence. Over the last three games—his first three career starts—he’s put up three double-doubles, registered a team season-high 21 rebounds (vs. Houston) and five blocks (vs. Sacramento) and managed to not only stay out of foul trouble but showcase just how good of conditioning he’s stayed in during the season by logging 37-plus minutes in two of the three contests.
“The more he’s on the floor, the more he learns what to do, what not to do,” Adelman said. “[Houston was] a tough team, but he was consistent getting to open spots. They were not leaving Kevin, so he got to spots where he was able to get eight offensive rebounds. That was a good effort on his part.”
Now, the challenge will be holding his own consistently in the paint—especially when he faces tougher centers. Both DeMarcus Cousins and Dwight Howard missed games against Minnesota last week due to injury.
“When he starts guarding guys that go to the post, you know, that’s when he gets his fouls. He gets his hands on them,” Adelman said. “The last two games, he hasn’t had to worry about that. The guys he’s guarding, they aren’t going into the post. I think it might’ve been a lot different if Dwight Howard would’ve played, because they’d be throwing the ball to him. They aren’t throwing it in to [Omer] Asik at all.”
- Adelman asked Pekovic on the plane if he knew the story of Wally Pipp (who, if you’re not familiar, missed a game for the Yankees in 1925 and never regained his spot as Lou Gehrig stepped in and played 2,130 straight games). It wasn’t a fruitful endeavor: “That was a big mistake,” Adelman said. “Because he never heard of Wally Pipp. He also never heard of Lou Gehrig.”
- Adelman was also surprised by J.J. Barea’s tip-slam during the Dallas game in which he ended up hanging on the rim. He hadn’t seen that before, and it took him by surprise. It caught Barea off guard, too: “I was just surprised I was up there,” Barea said. “I surprised myself, I’m telling you. I was like, ‘What am I doing up here, hold up.’ It was fun.”